Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Antonio v Antonio  EWHC 1199 (QB)
Duress; married couple; bad bargain
The parties used to be married and were also involved in business together. Mrs Antonio owned a lucrative business. While still married, Mr Antonio persuaded Mrs Antonio to make him a joint owner of the business – i.e. he made her enter into a shareholder agreement with him.
Mrs Antonio claimed that her former husband then made a series of threats over a two-year period, which culminated in a violent assault. It was then that she decided to sue her former husband. She claimed that the shareholder agreement was made under duress and was thus void. Mr Antonio made several counterclaims against his former wife and denied any form of duress. Most importantly, he argued that his dismissal from the business breached the shareholder agreement and claimed damages for loss of income.
After hearing the evidence – which was often very personal in nature – the Court held that Mrs Antonio was under duress when she agreed to make her then-estranged-husband a joint owner of her business. The Court was of the opinion that the threats she received from her husband were the direct cause of her decision to make him a joint owner. It was added that all witnesses present at the shareholder meeting claimed that she was visibly reluctant to enter into the shareholder agreement. The fact that there were two years between the agreement and her legal claim did not mean she had affirmed the agreement as she continued to be threatened and intimidated by Mr Antonio during that period.
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